Inspector Humility

Home inspectors are paid to present their opinions to home buyers, home sellers, realtors, attorneys, lenders, and others associated with the sale of homes. We are sometimes called in to problem solve for occupants and to perform other sundry evaluations but, for the purpose of this article, I’ll  be referring to the more common role of the inspector i.e., pre-purchase residential real estate transaction inspections.

Pride is often described as the opposite of humility and I think that’s an apt antonym. When a realtor challenges one of my observations, (a common occurrence) either during an inspection or when reviewing my report, I am quick to jump on my high horse (kept saddled and ready to ride at all times!) and make a run at him/her with my lance at the ready. This sets up an antagonistic dynamic that usually ‘goes south’ quickly and which does nothing to help myself or my client.

I’ve seen this lack of humility both in myself and in other inspectors while using Facebook, LinkedIn, and some of the less well know ‘inspector-only’ forums on the web.  The lack of skill with which I’ve often attempted to refute the opinions of realtors, sellers, contractors, developers, and other inspectors makes my face burn with embarrassment in hindsight.

The gifted philosopher Daniel Dennett in his book,”Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking,” provides these invaluable recommendations for ethical and fruitful discussions/arguments:

How to compose a successful critical commentary:

  1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.
  2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
  3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
  4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

Reading those rules yesterday on the fabulous website ‘brainpickings’  shed a bit of light on the ineffectiveness with which I’ve often presented my opinions and tried to persuade others over the years. I’ll be printing them out and taping them to a prominent position in my office until they’re committed to memory and incorporated into my practice.